Do People Tend to Underestimate the Seriousness of a Drug-Related Charge?

Interviewer: What kind of attitude do your clients have about drug-related charges?

Court Koehler: I think people that are not involved in the system the way that attorneys are don’t realize how common drug charges are.  Many people have at least tried drugs.  Many people have some sort of drug charges in their past.

Some of the other misconceptions are how serious the penalties are.  Most of the time, if it is a drug like marijuana and it’s a first offense or even a second or third offense, they are probably not going to have to do jail time and in a lot of ways it is much less serious than something like a DUI.

Drug-Related Convictions Typically Carry Less Penalties than DUI-Related Convictions 

You might have a similar fine but you won’t have all of the ignition interlock device restrictions. You probably will be required to attend a drug treatment program but you avoid many unpleasant aspects of a DUI conviction.

For example, individuals convicted of DUIs have to attend a victim impact panel and also deal with the general stigma of being a drunk driver. If I had to choose which one I was going to get charged with, I would probably choose a class D misdemeanor drug possession over a class B misdemeanor DUI for those reasons.

Even with more serious drugs, most of the time, the court, just because it is so common and there is so much of it around, does not view the offense as serious as a charge as an assault or battery. You are probably not going to spend any time in jail for possession of cocaine.

Do People with Multiple Drug-Related Offenses Have a Drug Problem?

Interviewer: When you are representing someone that has prior drug charges, have they ever received another offense while their case with you is still pending?

Court Koehler: If you look at statistics, nationwide, people that are in prisons the majority of those people committed their crimes while they were under the influence of drugs or were trying to get money to buy drugs or drugs were involved in some way in almost every case.  The way that starts is through a drug problem or an addiction problem and then maybe the armed robbery is to get money to buy drugs.  If you cannot straighten yourself out, you eventually go down a path and commit very serious crimes.

For Some People, One Offense Is Enough to Scare Them Straight

With other people, it’s a onetime offense and they are literally scared straight.  It just depends on the person and the case.  I will say that I’ve seen all sorts of different people straighten out from drug charges and other people who have had a long history with it.  I’ve seen all different types of individuals eventually get themselves straight and get clean and move on and go on to not having any trouble with the law.

By Court Koehler

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